The Worst Subway Habits, and How To Avoid Them

by  Maryrose Mullen | Feb 8, 2013
Subway / Kit L./iStock

Any major city worth its salt has a decent public transit system – “decent” meaning “it will usually get you from A to B... hopefully.” Besides being a lifeline for locals, a city subway system is a huge asset to those visiting the area. Subways can be a tourist’s best friend, as most lines have stops at some of the city’s biggest draws (Grand Central Terminal in New York City, or Westminster Abbey in London). Riding the rails is also a great way to hold onto cash that would otherwise be spent on cab fare. But, public transit isn’t without its drawbacks (read: long waits, terrible smells, the constant fear of an attack of the Rodents of Unusual Size). However, the most frustrating part is often the most unavoidable: your fellow passengers. Being packed into a tight space with hungry, tired, cranky people is bound to result in aggravation. However, there are a few universal annoyances that can easily be avoided so you get through your trip without being “that guy.”

Don’t Hold Up the Ticket Line
Most subway systems have a flat rate, so putting a few bucks on a single card is easy enough. Some rails, like the Metro in Washington, D.C., have fares that vary based on how far you travel. That’s convenient, especially if you’re traveling a short distance. However, things can get squirrelly when trying to figure out how much you need to get where you want to go and back to where you started. While your entitled to take your time figuring out the layout of an unfamiliar transit system, there’s nothing locals hate more than being trapped behind a dumbfounded tourist, ineffectively jabbing a 5-spot into a machine marked “no bills.” Swallow your pride and ask for help (or, just read the signs).

Don’t Sit Directly Next to Someone in an Otherwise Empty Car
It’s late, and everyone is eager to get home. There are only a few other passengers, each scattered throughout the spacious car. You enter and instead of plopping down in any of the widely-available seats, you pick the one right beside someone else. The first thing that that person is thinking is “creepy.”

Don’t Crowd the Door
First, when you enter a crowded car, don’t stop and stand directly in front of the door. Other people are trying to get on and off, and hunkering down in the first available place is going to create more friction than necessary. Get as close to the center of the car as possible. Second, don’t strong-arm your way through a deluge of exiting passengers. Wait until everyone has gotten off, then enter.

Don't Eat on the Train
Alright, so you're a very important, always on the run go-getter. You barely have time to make it to your next very important event, let alone eat. The last thing everyone needs is the stench of onion and fried egg sandwich clouding the air of the entire car. Nor do they want the greasy remnants of your last minute meal slicking up the seats and poles. Hork it down outside or on the platform.

Don’t Monopolize Space
Let’s get this straight: No one enjoys having his or her nose pressed into a stranger’s armpit. But, it’s the nature of the beast when it comes to public transit, and sometimes there’s no way around it. Then there are those people occupying huge swaths of space with backpacks, bikes, grocery bags, and feign oblivion to the fact that their extra stuff is smacking nearby riders in the face. If you’ve got a lot of things, compartmentalize as much as you can, and be aware of surrounding passengers.

Don’t Sit Next To a Stranger, Press Your Nose To the Nape of Her Neck, and Inhale
Okay, maybe that last one just happened to me.

What did we miss? What bad subway habits drive you absolutely crazy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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